Green Hope won its first Southwest Wake Athletic Conference girls tennis title since 2011 on Wednesday in a 6-3 win against Panther Creek on the Cary Tennis Center courts.
It always comes down to this match, or at least it has since these players were in elementary school.
After a few seasons as a fledgling program, Panther Creek quickly became a girls tennis powerhouse and has won the last three 4A titles. Green Hope, which has more SWAC girls tennis titles over the last decade than anyone, is hoping to win its first this year.
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It was fitting that the match’s turning point was at No. 2 doubles, where Green Hope’s Anna Rico and Katie Andreini pulled out an 8-4 win. The Falcons (15-1, 15-0) have made their run thanks to those freshmen as well as No. 6 singles player Reilly Major.
The rest of the lineup includes No. 1 Ana Horvat, a senior, No. 2 sophomore Cynthia Xiao and No. 5 sophomore Sophia Gray.
The Falcons’ stopped Panther Creek’s 52-match winning streak earlier in the year.
“Going into the first (meeting) we were definitely hopeful because we had a better chance than we had the past 3-4 years,” senior Ana Horvat said. “It definitely boosted self-esteem winning that (match), going into this one.”
Green Hope is thinking about a state title now. Green Hope coach Pam Gilbert said her team beat Cardinal Gibbons in an exhibition match before the season, and was missing a few players in a 5-4 loss to Sanderson. The arrival of the new freshmen has allowed the team to dominate the lower seeds.
With No. 4, 5 and 6 singles and No. 3 doubles almost a given every time out, Green Hope only needs to win one toss-up match – this time it was No. 2 doubles – to secure a win.
“At this level, you win at the bottom,” Gilbert said.
Panther Creek (15-2, 14-2) is also young with freshmen at No. 2 (Bella Steffens), No. 5 (Leann Blanc) and No. 6 (Natalie Coon). No. 3 Melody Zhang is a sophomore, but there’s no reason to think the Catamounts can’t string together a lengthy postseason run and face Green Hope again.
“We still think that we can be competitive and we can go the distance. We’ve got to put together our best tennis, from top-to-bottom, on the same day,” Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock said.
Catamounts senior Amanda Cyr, the 4A singles runner-up last year, has led this year’s team. Cyr is one of two seniors, joined by No. 4 singles player Aishani Tingare,
Panther Creek has had individual champions in 4A doubles in each of the last four years and Cyr can add to the program’s history by becoming the first in singles.
“The state at 4A is chock-full of talented players but I think Amanda’s got a really strong desire to get back to last year and turn the score in her favor,” Blalock.